Australia are expected to be confirmed as the host nation of the 2027 Rugby World Cup on Thursday and could target Eddie Jones to help their bid for success on home soil.
World Rugby’s council will meet in Dublin to confirm the host nations of the 2027 and 2031 tournaments – the latter is set to break new ground in the US – as well as the next three women’s World Cup tournaments.
Australia has been identified as the preferred bidder for the 2027 men’s tournament and after the union secured the necessary financial backing from the federal government in March, it is little more than a formality that they will be confirmed on Thursday.
World Rugby overhauled its bidding process after the controversial decision to award France the 2023 tournament five years ago, after South Africa had been recommended in an independent evaluation, and another late u-turn is inconceivable.
Australia last hosted the World Cup in 2003, when England were crowned champions following Jonny Wilkinson’s famous drop-goal against Jones’s Wallabies in the final. Jones’s contract with England ends after the 2023 tournament and, although he has recently been linked with a move to Racing 92, his future after ending ties with the Rugby Football Union is unclear.
Dave Rennie is the incumbent Wallabies head coach and it is thought that could be extended until the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia in 2025, depending on how his side fare at France 2023. The Brumbies head coach, Dan McKellar, is being lined up as his potential successor – though flopping in France would no doubt lead to a rethink – and Jones’s experience and track record at World Cups is not lost on Rugby Australia. Indeed, the governing body could seek Jones’s assistance in a broader capacity for the 2027 tournament. In 2019, before Rennie was appointed, Jones was briefly linked with a move back home following the Japan World Cup.
His departure in 2005 was acrimonious but the 2027 bid team have expressed a desire to have Jones on board. Last month former Wallabies hooker and bid leader Phil Kearns said: “I think it would be awesome if Eddie had a role in the future of Australian rugby. I think those [broken] bridges should well and truly be rebuilt and pave the way for Eddie to come back in some role. ”
The decision to award the 2031 tournament to the US, meanwhile, will be hugely significant as rugby union seeks to expand into new commercial markets. The US president, Joe Biden, has given his written endorsement of the bid but there is nonetheless scope for embarrassment if the USA team fails to advance through their playoff against Chile and reach the 2023 World Cup tournament.
The World Rugby council is also expected to confirm England as hosts of the 2025 women’s World Cup and award the 2029 and 2033 tournaments to Australia and the USA respectively. The delayed 2021 tournament will take place in New Zealand in the autumn with England the favorites to reclaim the title they won in 2014.
The council will also vote on whether to make the five global law trials – including the 50:22 and the goal-line drop-out – permanent. While the 50:22 law has received popular support and is expected to gain the 75% majority to be adopted long-term, it is understood there is some opposition to the goal-line drop-out from within the home nations, which could lead to it being ditched. It was recently identified by the current England captain, Courtney Lawes, as the one law he would do away with if he had the chance.
It is also understood that World Rugby has abandoned any plans to trial the 20-minute red card law on a global scale amid widespread opposition from within the northern hemisphere.
All the while, discussions continue in Dublin over the proposal for a north versus south “Nations Championship” to be launched in 2026. A concrete decision would be made at World Rugby’s next council meeting in November but stakeholders perceive this week as crucial for progress to be made if the tournament is to come to pass.